January 18, 2016 marked the start of Sweden’s efforts to achieve the United Nation’s new sustainable development goals. One of these goals is that cities and communities are to include all its residents. Anja Karlsson and Susanna Roth from IVL have investigated how the use of participatory processes can increase social sustainability, thereby reducing social exclusion and alienation.
Last autumn, the UN General Assembly adopted 17 new global goals for sustainable development. The new 2030 agenda spans a wide field, and includes measures to combat climate change and other environmental threats. The objective of the eleventh development goal is to ensure access for all to adequate, safe and affordable housing and basic services —and as a means to achieve this to enhance inclusive and sustainable urbanization, and the capacity for participatory, integrated and sustainable human settlement planning and management in countries across the world.
– Actively involving residents and other stakeholders in urban development is a way of tackling social sustainability issues. This approach not only leads to actions that better reflect the needs of society, but also helps urban residents understand and accept the various interventions and environmental policy actions deemed necessary. By extension, this approach may have a positive impact on human wellbeing and social exclusion and alienation, says Anja Karlsson from IVL, Swedish Environmental Research Institute.
She has extensive experience from working in the Botkyrka Municipality in Stockholm County, where IVL has implemented several projects designed to involve local residents in a major overhaul.
Along with Susanna Roth at IVL, she has carried out a project designed to explore how participatory processes can be applied to sustainable urban development. The results of the study are presented in the report ”Dialog för en hållbar stadsutveckling”. (Dialogues for Urban Sustainability).
Municipalities and property and construction companies are some of the Swedish actors who today often utilize dialogue to instigate and shore up decision-making procedures with regards to urban development.
– As our experience of using participatory action research grows, and the demand for sustainability in urban development intensifies, there is a growing need to help these players gain as much as possible from the involvement of citizens and other stakeholders, says Anja Karlsson.